The lightbulb moment. We’ve all felt it. That millisecond in which something clicks.
For some of us, the lightbulb goes off when we realize we're ready for a new job, a new challenge, a new city. It goes off when we realize our significant other is the only person we want to be with for the rest of our life...the “one.”
I have been lucky enough to experience that lightbulb moment with a few of my students throughout my career and, while the feeling can be so momentous it is difficult to put into words, it’s worth a shot.
Several years ago, for one of my sweet students, math was becoming a nightmare. He was so nervous when it came time for math, that he would feign a headache and try to convince me he needed to go to the nurse. This utterly adorable little boy had come to hate math in just a few years of school.
Automatically, as this child’s teacher, I began second-guessing myself and my teaching. Is the work too challenging? Is it developmentally appropriate? Am I expecting too much? And of course the question that keeps all teachers awake at night: am I doing enough?
I began taking advantage of any free moments in the classroom to work with this child individually. I knew he knew the addition and subtraction facts somewhere in his head, but was struggling to access them. When I wrote out a subtraction problem and gently asked him to explain to me how to solve it, his wide-eyed, frightened expression said it all.
It became our routine most mornings to have five minutes of one-on-one time to practice subtraction, in the hope that all of a sudden it would “click.”
One morning, I pulled him aside and, as usual, his little shoulders slumped as he saw the equation written on the paper. But then something magical happened. His brown eyes widened a bit, and he bit his lip in concentration. Without prompting, he began leading me through the problem step by step.
It was as if he couldn’t get the words out quickly enough, and as he finished solving the problem perfectly, he looked at me with an expression of combined amusement, pride, and shock.
This little boy, who just one day prior struggled with single digit addition and subtraction, had solved a three-digit subtraction problem with regrouping. And then another. And another. And another. His grin spread from one ear to the other as I fought to stop the tears of joy that welled in my eyes from slipping down my cheek.
I am a big believer in working hard for your achievements. I would bet that the pride this child experienced when that lightbulb went off will give him the motivation to conquer his next obstacle, whatever it may be. Although many children have come and gone since I taught this little boy, the memory of his hard work continues to inspire my commitment to teaching all children how important perseverance is, and how much it pays off in the end.